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How to Use Your Intuition Strategically

Knowing your intuition style is the first step to improving your decisions

The Essentials

While data-driven decision-making seems to be the rage in management circles, some researchers are studying how intuition — seen as almost a mysterious force — can be better understood and used as tool for strategic thinking. What they’re finding, says Yolande Chan, E. Marie Shantz Professor of IT Management at Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, is that there are distinct patterns in preferred styles and that intuition can change over time. In this video, she discusses how managers, leaders, and organizations can use these insights to reach better decisions.

Video Highlights

0:12     The four types of intuition are: affective intuition, where judgements are made emotionally; inferential intuition, which is a hunch based on data; Holistic Abstract intuition, based on a personal theory of how the world operates; and Holistic Big Picture intuition, which involves a systems view of how diverse information fits together.

1:10     Preferred intuition styles can change as people gain more work experience. Less experienced employees tend to trust in their emotional intelligence while more experienced employees put more weight on their intuited understanding of how their organization or industry operates as a whole.

2:13    “If you’re an executive making decisions in your organization, who should be at the table? If you have primarily junior folk, you’re going to have a lot of emotion. If you have primarily senior folk, you may actually miss some of the emotion that could be helpful in decision making. Emotion may reflect what stakeholders are feeling.”

2:44     Regardless of industry or experience, managers are much more willing than leaders to base their judgments on emotion. “That could be potentially limiting. . . If the manager is not willing or able to put aside emotion and make very tough decisions, the individual may find himself or herself stuck at a certain level in the organization.”

4:00     To hone your intuition style, closely examine how you make decisions and pursue professional development opportunities that will expose you to complementary styles. Alternatively, ensure colleagues with a different style of intuition are consulted when key decisions must be made.

5:14     Chan urges managers and leaders to become “informed intuitors,” to “use the data to line up with or challenge our intuition. It’s when using both the Big Data. . . and our intuition that we come to really excellent decisions.”

This research is highlighted in the recently published book How Well Do Executives Trust Their Intuition?